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Opening Day, When Memories Spring Eternal

There was always baseball. The Red Sox, Fenway Park, Section 16, Row JJ, Seat 5. My father's summer home for 40+ years.

Opening Day of Major League Baseball has long been a harbinger of spring, a turning of the seasons as important a marker as Easter and Passover (perhaps more so, depending upon one's faith in the Olde Towne Team).

Love of the Red Sox is passed down through generations, and mine was no different. My grandfather took my father to Fenway Park by train, when as a 15 year old he saw Lefty Parnell no-hit the White Sox, becoming the last Red Sox lefthander to throw a no-hitter at Fenway for 52 years...when a 67-year-old Elliott was there to see Jon Lester do it.

My father started taking us to games before we could walk. He had a season ticket for the night games, and would sneak my brother and I in with him using old tickets hidden beneath the ticket for that day's game (this was long before digital scanners). Or, he'd buy tickets on the street after the first inning, when scalpers dropped their prices to below face value just to be rid of them. Occasionally, he's slip a $20 to one of the guys he knew working at Gate D and in we'd go, finding empty seats and moving as necessary.

David Ginsburg, Ted Williams, Elliott Ginsburg

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, working at Arrow Wholesale with him, I'd take his tickets when he was out of town and go to the game on my own--that sweet seat along the first base side made for a pleasant summer evening of baseball. Once, I had just settled into my seat with a beer and a hot dog when the older gentleman a row ahead turned to me and said "do you know the guy who usually sits in that seat? Heavyset fella, brings in Chinese food 3 nights a week and doesn't share it with anybody?" I laughed and said, "yeah, that's my dad."

In truth, my father and I weren't so close in those days despite working together. The competitiveness between fathers and sons, wanting to prove my independence as a person, that I wasn't "little Elliott" as I'd been so often tagged when I was a little boy...and my father just as fiercely protective as the center of his own universe led to a yawning gap between us that took years to overcome.

There was always baseball, though. Always the Red Sox. Whenever there was something important to tell me, it was at a Red Sox game.

When I was 10 and my parents were getting a divorce (which wasn't a surprise, since I'd heard them fighting every night for years and heard my mother tell him she wanted a divorce for Mother's Day a few weeks prior), we were in his regular seats.

When I was 12 and my father was getting remarried, we were sitting behind home plate.

When I was 17, we were at Fenway when he told me I was going to have a younger brother or sister, we were sitting behind the Red Sox dugout along first base.

When they finally won it all in 2004, he was the first person I called. Like millions of other Red Sox fans, we were stunned. The drought was over. The curse was lifted.

When they won it in 2007, we laughed about it. "Boy, this is something. Twice! I can only imagine how much they'll raise the ticket prices now." And, "I guess this means they're never bringing back the pee troughs in the men's rooms."

When he first started showing signs of his illness, I knew it was serious because he was staying home. The man who'd worked 7 days a week for 50 years, who would drive from Worcester to Old Orchard Beach and still make it to Fenway for a 7:05 start no longer had the energy to drive back and forth to Boston.

When we knew it was serious and he'd become housebound, there was always the Red Sox. Night after night, weekend afternoons, the game was on and it gave us something to talk about. Talking about the Red Sox enabled us to talk about life. To reconnect, a father and son, roles reversed now, the father dependent upon the son.

When they won it again in that magical 2013 season, we watched the Series together. It felt right.

2014 and 2015 were tough. He went from the couch to a hospice bed. Still, the Red Sox games were on night after night. Hospice aides, most of whom where Ghanian immigrants unfamiliar with the intricacies of the game of baseball and the mythical lore of the Boston Red Sox in particular, watched with him (albeit with the volume blasting on full since he couldn't hear a goddamn thing at that point), asking questions and letting him share his vast knowledge of the sport and the team.

As he faded throughout the summer and fall of 2015, the team did too. A last-place finish, somehow fitting for a dying fan.

Opening Day is here. I can't watch it without thinking of my dad. This was one of his favorite days of the year. He'd be at the game, eating hot dogs and bitching that he can't sneak in food from Chef Chang's House anymore. Hope would, as Roger Angell so eloquently put it, spring eternal.

Let's go, Red Sox. Happy Opening Day, Dad.

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